Choose your tactics to front up to frost
Pre-season tactics – including planning, zoning and choosing the right crops - are a vital element of a frost management strategy to reduce frost risk.
Peter Roberts, chairman of the Grains Research and Development Corporation’s (GRDC) Western Regional Panel and GRDC National Frost Initiative (NFI) steering committee, said frost damage to cereals was a significant annual production constraint for the Australian grains industry and could result in considerable yield losses.
“In some areas the risk of frost has increased due to widening of the frost event window and changes in grower practices,” he said.
“A comprehensive frost management strategy needs to be part of annual farm planning and should include pre-season, in-season and post-frost event management tactics.”
Mr Roberts said the new GRDC publication Managing frost risk – tips and tactics outlined step-by-step tactics as well as including technical information and links to other resources.
“These resources include preliminary frost ranking information for current wheat and barley varieties, available for the first time this year at the National Variety Trials website via an interactive tool,” he said.
“Growers can access this ranking information and consider using wheat and barley varieties that have lower susceptibility to frost during flowering to manage the frost risk of the cropping program.”
Mr Roberts said there were two types of pre-season management tactics available for growers – at the level of farm management planning and within identified frost zones of a farm.
“As outlined in the Managing frost risk publication, farm management planning tactics include considering your personal approach to risk in your business.
“The risk of frost can often drive conservative farming practices, which should be carefully and regularly reviewed in light of the latest research,” he said.
“Other measures include using historical seasonal records and forecasts and consideration of spatial variability (topography and soil type) to assess the frost risk of your property.
“They also include diversification of enterprise options to spread financial risk in the event of frost damage and zoning paddocks or areas in paddocks prone to frost – to help determine appropriate management.”
Mr Roberts said that once zoning had been undertaken, management strategies for identified frost zones could be considered including:
- Consideration of the most appropriate enterprise (for example grazing, hay or oat production) within an identified frost zone
- Reviewing nutrient management
- Modifying the ‘soil heat bank’ through practices that manipulate the storage and release of heat from the soil
- Selection of appropriate crops
- Manipulating flowering times
- Fine-tuning cultivar selection by using the frost ranking information here
GRDC has long acknowledged the severe implications of frost on crop production and since 1999 has invested about $13.5 million in more than 60 frost-related projects nationally.
In 2014, GRDC increased investments into frost research through the establishment of the five-year NFI.
This is an integrated program with a three-pronged approach addressing genetics, management and environment to mitigate the effects of frost.
GRDC Western Panel chairman Peter Roberts
0428 389 060
Natalie Lee, Cox Inall Communications
08 9864 2034, 0427 189 827
GRDC Project Code UA00136, DAFWA00234, UW00005